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Extended Heredity: A New Understanding of Inheritance and Evolution Kindle Edition
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"Bonduriansky & Day have written a book of great clarity, and have done so with great care. Whether you are open to the idea of non-genetic inheritance or not, this thought provoking book deserves a close reading."--Inquisitive Biologist
"Extended Heredity [shows] how far the mainstream has shifted to include epigenetic forces alongside genes as drivers of who and what we are."---Liz Else and Simon Ings, New Scientist
"The most compelling and accessible account of this topic to date."---Kevin Laland, Science
"Clear and timely, Extended Heredity looks at the evolutionary importance of nongenetic inheritance and how it offers exciting research perspectives. This book will have a major influence on how nongenetic inheritance will be dealt with in future years, by both believers and skeptics of the concept." --Anne Charmantier, French National Center for Scientific Research
"This lively and enjoyable book articulates the role of nongenic inheritance as an essential aspect of evolutionary biology. Extended Heredity is a most welcome contribution to the field."--Jan Sapp, author of The New Foundations of Evolution --This text refers to the paperback edition.
"The authors make a persuasive case that genes are not the only determinants of Darwinian evolution."―Steven Henikoff, Current Biology
"[This] is a careful, well-reasoned exposition of the importance of nongenetic inheritance and its implications for evolution, and it is a welcome contrast to hyperbolic claims that nongenetic evolution warrants an 'extended evolutionary synthesis.'"―Douglas Futuyma, Evolutionary Studies in Imaginative Culture
"A work of great clarity. Bonduriansky and Day provide an absorbing account of evolution in which a menagerie of epigenetic forces joins our genes as the drivers of who we are and what we are like."―Mark Pagel, author of Wired for Culture --This text refers to the paperback edition.
- ASIN : B078WHVC58
- Publisher : Princeton University Press; Illustrated edition (April 10, 2018)
- Publication date : April 10, 2018
- Language : English
- File size : 10655 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Not Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 305 pages
- Lending : Not Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #1,131,151 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
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“Fertilization involves the fusion of two cells that contain thousands of different kinds of biomolecules besides DNA…….(there is ) an ‘epigenetic’ overlay of molecules, such as methyl groups, histone proteins, and RNA, that affect how DNA sequences are read”. Even semen may contain many molecules beside DNA that impacts development, and the methylation pattern of the sperm DNA, experiments “suggest”, is not always completely erased as has been thought. “It appears that cells throughout the body can secrete tiny membrane-enclosed bubbles of cytoplasm into the blood plasma and other bodily fluids, and these minute “extracellular vesicles” can travel through the body and fuse with other cells, including gametes”, thereby, for example, passing on useful defenses against enemies. The authors refer to “self-sustaining” loops, permitting multi-generation inheritance, but the clearest explanation provided of how this is accomplished really pertains only to inheritance by simple cell division as in paramecium.
The material that I was interested in is not particularly well organized; part of the problem is that at this point very much is unknown, so that phenomena are documented, but the explanations are only hypothesized.
Recommended for anyone interested in how evolution works.
What Weismann didn’t realize, however, was that his barrier isn’t as fortified as he thought. As we now know, some molecules in body fluids may be able to find their way to reproductive cells and thus penetrate the germ line. This is how our lifetime experience can affect our descendants. Weisman certainly had no idea about the cross-generational impact of tail-maiming without general anesthesia in a time when wounded soldiers bit the bullet to withstand excruciating pain during operations. Today, we know that traumatic experiences like that can leave an indelible footprint in the next generation. In fact, as it has been demonstrated in rodents, even how much a mother licks her pups may alter the pups’ pattern of social reaction, which may then affect their maternal behavior when they reproduce. This pattern can again be relayed on to the next, next generation, and so on and so forth, like a ripple. Here, the vertical transmission of the behavior between generations takes place without change in the DNA structure. As such, Lamarck, though discredited in theorizing how the giraffe gets its neck, wasn’t entirely wrong in the inheritance of acquired characters after all. This topic of Lamarckian inheritance is methodically reexamined and compellingly argued for in this book.
In the book, the two authors, evolutionary biologists Russell Bonduriansky and Troy Day, synthesize a wide spectrum of state-of-art research information about conceivable nongenetic inheritance from bacteria to humans. Backed by a growing body of evidence, they expose the fallacy in the long-held creed that genes are unalterable and are the only elements that matter in evolution. Contrary to this gene-centric view, Bonduriansky and Day present a large collection of examples to showcase that not all inheritance involves structural change in DNA. They demonstrate, instead, that many nongenetic aspects including epigenetic, cytoplasmic, somatic, symbiotic, behavioral, environmental, and cultural factors can also be inherited, and as such, they can intervene evolutionary trajectories as well. Consequently, they combine the genetic and nongenetic inheritance and call them collectively as extended heredity. So, the monopoly of genes in evolution is over.
Yet, for eight decades, our evolutionary understanding has been dominated by the gene-centric view since Julian Huxley’s 1942 book, Evolution: A Modern Synthesis, pronouncing the advent of neo-Darwinism. Evolution has since been defined as change in gene frequency over time, a tenet that still prevails in our college textbooks. Extended Heredity, however, presents case after case to the contrary, convincing readers that nongenetic factors can also affect the course of evolution in various ways and magnitudes. Clearly, the classical neo-Darwinian view is overly simplistic and insufficient. Now, like at the cusp of Huxley’s Modern Synthesis eight decades earlier, evolution has arrived at yet another major crossroads, desperately in need of another synthesis. Most fundamental of all is the very definition of evolution, which must be broadened to encompass all cross-generational transmission of characters via both genetic and nongenetic means. (This issue was enthusiastically discussed and debated among evolutionary biologists in the 2018 conference of the Society for the Study of Evolution in Montpellier, France.)
Evolution, though often misleadingly touted as a theory in society, is more of an empirical science for biologists like me. Yet, with the inclusion of extended inheritance, evolutionary processes will certainly take on more nuances and complexities. How can we measure evolution when extended heredity is concerned? Bonduriansky and Day solve the problem with a broad and brilliant stroke – by resorting to an elegant yet little-known mathematical formula, Price’s equation, credited to its discoverer, George Price. Aided by a series of cartoons, the authors explain to intelligent laypeople how genetic and nongenetic factors interact and jointly influence evolutionary processes. So readers interested in the issue do not need extensive math to understand the evolutionary calculus under the new theoretical framework.
Few topics in biology can pique more general interest in society than genetics and evolution. Indeed, the revival of Lamarckian mechanism has drawn an increasing amount of spirited debate in biology and beyond since the 1990s. The conception of extended inheritance brings forth fresh views on and challenges to many of our health issues. For instance, copious consumption of junk foods are likely to heighten the risk of obesity and diabetes in our descendants. So are smoking, drinking, and drug abuse, which may also be transmitted to our children, grandchildren, or even further down the line. At present, these problems are taken as an issue of personal choice and individual responsibility. Yet new discoveries have shown that many bad habits and imprudent lifestyles can have a long-range negative impact on future generations. When an individual decision can affect future citizens in society, can we still call it a personal choice issue, while in fact, it has a much larger and longer social consequence? This is a question that will force us to redefine the boundaries of individual freedom and personal responsibility in the near future.
Another area that calls for a new look lies in our practice in such major social issues as education and welfare, in which the environmental factors, especially the care of children by parents, teachers, and care providers, can make a marked difference in physical and mental development of our children. In this age of extended heredity, poverty, for example, is not just a lack of financial resource but also a persistent mental stress that is likely to beget poverty in the next generation. This may lead to a vicious cycle where generations of people can be trapped in poverty, a phenomenon that for long has been studied by social scientists. The poor are often blamed for bad choice or personal character such as laziness by the right and for inadequate help from the government by the left. Obviously, both sides are superficial, if not outright wrong, on this issue in light of extended heredity. Knowing how extended inheritance works, we may be able to pinpoint the root cause of the poverty trap and find new and effective ways to move people out of it.
The above are just two of many areas where the knowledge of extended heredity can make a substantial difference. With such a broad range of significant implications in improving the quality of our personal and social lives, this book should be read by social thinkers, policymakers, and responsible citizens, in addition to scholars and students in both natural and social sciences.
Lixing Sun - Central Washington University